Emergency Services Minister Bob Wiese today warned that Perth was located within a recognised earthquake zone and both emergency authorities and the public had to be prepared for the possibility of a major earthquake disaster.
Opening a two-day seminar and workshop on earthquake preparation, Mr Wiese said the recent havoc in Kobe, Japan, had highlighted the devastating effects of an earthquake.
Mr Wiese said the WA State Emergency Service was the `lead combat authority' to deal with the threat of an earthquake and the onus was on the agency to ensure that prevention, planning, response and recovery strategies were in place.
"While earthquakes cannot be prevented, emergency arrangements and agencies must be fully prepared and co-ordinated to significantly reduce their impact," the Minister said.
"This seminar/workshop is an important initiative by the SES to assess just what arrangements are in place and how effective they would be to minimise the suffering and chaos."
Mr Wiese said the Meckering and Cadoux earthquakes in the late 1960s reinforced that the threat was real and emergency services must be ready for a worst case scenario.
"Earthquakes are unpredictable and therefore it is impossible to issue warnings to prepare the population and emergency service personnel for earthquake impact," he said.
"Earthquakes vary considerably in intensity and this makes it impossible to predict accurately the number of injuries or deaths or the level of damage."
Mr Wiese said earthquakes did not discriminate and authorities must be prepared for the destruction of Government infrastructure, commercial operations and housing.
"It is important that the commercial sector are also prepared for earthquake and other disaster situations, because shutdowns cause enormous social and economic problems," he said.
Mr Wiese said experts in various areas of disaster management would address the seminar, which would include representatives from emergency services authorities, Government agencies, local government and the private sector.
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595 / 322 2311